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Could F1 live without the Monaco GP? Our verdict

by Josh Suttill
9 min read

For decades, the Monaco Grand Prix has operated on a different schedule and a very different commercial deal to the rest of the races on the Formula 1 calendar.

And any idea that its place on that calendar could be in jeopardy would’ve seemed ludicrous, such was its sacrosanct status even as complaints about its anachronistic nature and the impossibility of overtaking grew louder.

Now things are changing. Monaco’s not exactly under severe threat, but it’s going to have to operate on F1’s terms not its own.

Could F1 live without Monaco? Here are our writers’ thoughts:

It’s a unique driving challenge that F1 shouldn’t lose

Edd Straw

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Saturday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Monaco is a terrible track for wheel-to-wheel racing in Formula 1; given its geographical constraints, it’s always likely to be. But it is a unique, anachronistic driving challenge that must not be lost.

While the circuit has changed over the years, it’s still recognisably the same one that held its first grand prix in 1929 – a relic of the Roaring 20s. Were a promoter to propose creating such a track today, even with the compromises F1 will allow for street circuits, it would be out of the question.

To watch the drivers thread these big, bulky but stunningly fast F1 cars between the barriers is spellbinding. The precision required, the confidence and the concentration is simply astonishing.

It might be that my perspective is distorted by the privilege of watching from close quarters at Monaco over the years, but the sight of a driver on a push lap in Monte Carlo is still translated by television footage. And some of the most memorable moments watching F1 cars trackside are from Monaco.

There’s nowhere else like Monaco on the F1 calendar. With so many races, there’s unquestionably room for this one-of-a-kind and historic circuit.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s lost. While there is scope for modifying the commercial terms and ways to improve the ‘racebility’ (to use Ross Brawn’s favourite word) of the circuit should be pursued, F1 would be all the poorer for losing a fearsome test of driver skill that can never be fully replicated elsewhere.

Monaco becoming a rotating race works

Scott Mitchell

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Even though I’m not a huge fan of the Monaco Grand Prix, and I think it makes sense as a rotating race, I’d be surprised if it really did drop off.

It’s a kind of combination of status race/so historic/so popular with different groups that it would be a huge gamble for F1 to even move it onto a biennial contract.

But honestly, I think it’s perfect for that kind of place on the calendar.

Monaco isn’t like a promoter or business that relies on the grand prix to work financially. It hasn’t got a full-time circuit to maintain, and the associated costs to manage. And it’s not about to suddenly plummet in prestige or interest, so it has less to lose by disappearing for a year.

If anything I think it might help make the event stand out a bit more again as more destination races get added. Maybe a bit more time off between races and the threat of losing the grand prix altogether will spark a sincere effort to look at the track changes that have been long called for.

Personally, Monaco doesn’t appeal that much. It’s the same thing every time – a glamorous event and a boring race. But it’s losing key points of distinction. The schedule is now the same as every other European race. And there are plenty of street tracks that are more interesting and have as much (if not more) commercial and celebrity value.

Monaco is still the big European event. That makes it unique in some way. But is it still F1’s jewel in the crown? I don’t think so.

Formula E can fill the void

Sam Smith

Spacesuit Media Lou Johnson 241040

Forget the cash, the yachts, the cash, the dodgy fashion and the cash, F1 at Monaco hasn’t been very good for decades.

You get one grand prix in 10 that has any genuine level of racing interest. Let’s face the elephant in the room, the vast majority are duds and serve only to line the pockets of F1 and the principality itself.

Even the supposed legendary races weren’t that good and are massively embellished by misty-eyed revisionist legend.

An example – the 1982 race would be viewed as an embarrassment these days as cars dropped like flies and very little racing actually occurred. Just go to the cinema if you want to watch a zombie film.

A decade on and the Mansell and Senna duel was high-speed posturing, no more. They could have driven another 60 laps and there wouldn’t have been a move made. Impossible, even for a far superior car on much fresher tyres.

There is also the hypocritical nature of racing at Monaco from a safety standpoint. Everyone got in a flap over Jeddah a few weeks ago – it was such a dangerous street track they said – but taking a dimly lit tunnel at 180mph with no run-off whatsoever is absolutely fine, no problem!

10 years ago in a GP3 race, Connor Daly was centimetres from wiping-out a half a dozen marshals. No one batted an eyelid. Because, well, it’s Monaco.

The track isn’t even a real challenge anymore for an F1 car.

The cambers have been lost and the surface is so smooth it’s more a crucible level snooker table rather than the dive bar pool baize it used to be.

There is a simple solution that will probably go down like a knackered lift for F1 fans. Watch Formula E at Monaco instead.

It doesn’t need a sell-in. Just watch last year’s race. Can’t overtake at Monaco? I dare you to ask Mitch Evans and Antonio Felix da Costa that question after checking out the highlights.

The last time an F1 car tried to overtake where Evans dispatched Da Costa last May was when Jacques Villeneuve attempted it on Juan Pablo Montoya and both ended up in the barriers along with David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher, and that was in free practice!

It’s also more future relevant and so should be right up Prince Albert’s rue, meaning that the ACM and the FIA should give the Monaco E-Prix and Formula E more exposure by making it annual as opposed to a biennial F1 Grand Prix.

That would be a massive statement and one that would show that motorsport is serious about racing for a purpose rather than natty marketing straplines.

Don’t touch it

Matt Beer

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

It’s the sound as much as anything. And I’ve only ever heard that sound through the TV screen. The echo of the engines – even the hybrids – off the surrounding walls is just unlike anything else you hear during the F1 season. You know with your eyes closed that something special and different is happening.

Yes, F1 has outgrown it. Formula E shows that with the right car dimensions, race format quirks and braking distances, it’s possible to get amazing racing around the Monaco GP track. F1 would need dramatic revisions to do what its electric sibling does there.

It shouldn’t have the right to dictate preferential commercial terms and the parties-on-yachts element of its ‘glamour’ leaves me pretty unmoved.

But as F1’s calendar gets ever larger, the importance of individual rounds having identity and soul grows too.

There’s nothing like Monaco on the schedule and for practical reasons there really won’t be again either. It really is a unique challenge.

And OK, overtaking is nearly non-existent. But zero overtaking doesn’t mean zero drama. Things happen in Monaco. Last year wasn’t a great race but it still featured Charles Leclerc wrestling an off-the-pace Ferrari onto pole then crashing and consequently failing to start. And title contender Lewis Hamilton was mired in seventh. And Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel brilliantly progressing from ninth and eighth on the grid to finish fourth and fifth.

You could probably find a way to change the track to crowbar in a contrived overtaking spot. But the only thing I’d want to change about Monaco is to put the barriers back where they used to be at Sainte Devote and the Swimming Pool, just to increase the jeopardy again. And to stop Formula 2 from having any kind of reversed-grid there ever, as it just guarantees an unworthy winner for part of a showpiece weekend.

It’s flawed but it’s glorious for it. It has to stay.

F1 doesn’t need Monaco anymore

Glenn Freeman

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

If Formula 1 really has got itself to a point commercially where it doesn’t need to rely on the Monaco GP week to keep the money rolling in, then that’s great news for the championship’s direction. Or maybe the world has just moved on from people needing to be glad-handed on yachts to sign off sponsorship deals.

Either way, that commercial aspect and the relatively meaningless feeling of glitz and glamour was all Monaco really brought to the table for F1. And it earned the race the special status that meant it didn’t pay a hosting fee either.

Aug 05 : S4 E5: Monaco 2004 - Trulli's only win and chaos behind him

History is great, but it’s not a reason to stand still. F1 outgrew the Monaco circuit a long time ago. On track, this race doesn’t warrant a place on a calendar that is accelerating towards a point of having more prospective races than it does spaces on its schedule.

Back to my first point: for all this time fans have had to tolerate boring Monaco races because we were told the race was of huge commercial value to F1. If that’s no longer the case, let’s leave Monaco where it belongs: in the past.

The problem is the cars, not the track

Hannah Prydderch

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Monaco is a jewel in motorsport’s Triple Crown, but it’s undeniable that it’s lost a lot of its sparkle. Yet for every one overtake race you have, every so often there’ll be a diamond that makes you forget how unsuited this relationship is.

No matter how much F1 lauds Las Vegas for its glitz and glamour, it can’t compete with Monaco. The whole weekend epitomises the luxury and wealth that is found throughout the sport’s origins and is a tie to an era gone by.

Monaco’s challenge is the fundamental struggle F1 faces in its not-so-distant future – should the tracks change for the cars or should the cars be designed with the tracks in mind? F1 cars have become oversized toys, too big and too heavy, whilst the roads of Monte Carlo have naturally stayed the same.

The reason Formula E thrives there is because the cars were designed precisely for streets like these. Considering the amount of thought put into expanding F1 across new global markets and the correlating increase in street circuits, it seems strange to create cars poorly equipped to race around them.

Monaco was once an untouchable titan of the calendar, but its difficulties prove that even the most beloved or prestigious circuits aren’t guaranteed a future – a move that might make sense for short-term business but will leave a sour taste in the mouths of many diehard fans. That alienation is something F1 can’t afford if the promised improvements in racing eventually tail off into processions once again.

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